When Domenico Pozzovivo stepped up to WorldTour level with AG2R-La Mondiale in 2013 after almost a decade in the court of Bruno Reverberi at Panaria and Colnago, one of the prime attractions was the prospect of making a belated Tour de France debut.
The wait was to continue a little longer. In his first three years at the team, Pozzovivo’s Julys remained low-key, with manager Vincent Lavenu preferring to send him to the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España instead of the Tour.
In 2016, however, Pozzovivo will finally sample La Grande Boucle. The Italian will, as ever, line out at the Giro in May, as co-leader with Jean-Christophe Péraud, before racing alongside Romain Bardet in France in July.
“The decision has been made based on the routes of both the Giro and the Tour,” Pozzovivo told Cyclingnews at the Tour of Oman. “This year the Giro is slightly less demanding than in recent seasons, especially in the first part. So it might be possible to come there a little short of top condition and build up through the first week.
“As for the Tour, it will depend a bit on how I recover from the Giro, and I’ll decide based on that whether to go there for stage wins or for a high place on GC.”
Bardet – sixth at the 2014 Tour and a pugnacious ninth last year – has already been anointed as AG2R’s outright team leader, with the target of a top five finish in Paris, but Pozzovivo suggested that he, too, will enjoy a degree of latitude to seek results of his own at the race.
“I’ll have enough freedom,” Pozzovivo said. “Even though Romain will be the leader, I’ll still be protected by the team.”
At the Giro, Pozzovivo’s role is clearer, and he will share leadership duties with Péraud, as he has done in years past with Carlos Betancur. Péraud, a surprising second at the Tour in 2014, has been attracted to the Giro in part by the time trialling in the opening week, and Pozzovivo is confident that they can dovetail their efforts in the high mountains.
“I don’t think we’ll have any problems,” he said. “So let’s just hope we’re both in good condition, because I think we can play off one another.”
Pozzovivo has animated the Giro in the mountains since he made his debut in the corsa rosa in the orange of Panaria in 2005, though he has claimed just a single stage win in that time, at Lago Laceno in 2012, while his best overall finish is his fifth place from 2014.
“The quite ambitious objective for this year is to make the podium,” Pozzovivo smiled. “But there are a lot of big rivals in the field this year. I’ve only finished in the top five once in my career, so repeating that result would already be something special.”
Two weeks before the Giro, meanwhile, Pozzovivo will also hope to shine at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The 33-year-old only made his debut at La Doyenne in 2014, but after placing fifth and eighth in his two participations to date, he will go to Wallonia in April with ambition.
“It’s not impossible, and it’s the ‘easiest’ classic for me, so to speak, in the sense that it’s the one that gives me the best chance of winning,” he said. “It’s an important objective for me, it’s a race that I care about a lot and I want to do well there.”
Starting the season well
For the second year running, Pozzovivo began his season at the Tour Down Under and once again enjoyed a successful outing in Australia, placing 7th. Whereas a year ago the Italian's first race was followed by a scheduled operation to remove pins from the tibia he broke in a training crash the previous summer, this time around he might be able to capitalise on his early-season condition, starting at this week’s Tour of Oman.
“At a psychological level it’s important for me to start well. Rather than doing a big block of training, I prefer to race in good weather and train in good weather, and get a few results if I can too,” he said.
Pozzovivo impressed his peers in the leading group on the climb above Quriyat in the finale of stage 2 in Oman, and the climber will be expected to be the fore on the decisive stage to Green Mountain on Friday, along with his teammate Bardet and his fellow countryman Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Pozzovivo currently lies seventh overall, just 10 seconds off the red jersey of Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data).
“Above all it’s a week to see where I’m at, and to keep building for Tirreno-Adriatico and [the Volta a] Catalunya, which are my two objectives in the early part of the season,” said Pozzovivo. “But if something good comes along this week, especially on the Green Mountain stage, then I’ll take it gladly.”